How to Choose Healthy Snacks

Girl eating apple
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Most people like to eat snacks. Sometimes out of habit or boredom, and sometimes because of real hunger. If you're snacking because you're bored, maybe you should try a hobby or go for a walk. But, if you keep snacking because you're hungry, then choose a treat that's healthy and nutritious. A snack can be a big calorie blow-out if you treat yourself to a large bowl of ice cream or wolf down a bag of greasy chips.

Try These Healthy Snack Ideas

A snack can be a good source of low-calorie nutrition if you choose wisely—eating fruits, vegetables, or whole grain crackers, for example, can add plenty of nutrients and fiber.

Think of your snack as a mini-meal. Keep it balanced by choosing a little protein, a bit of healthful fat, and some carbohydrates, like a combination of high-fiber bread, crackers, or fresh vegetables and fruits, plus nuts, or nut butter.

Remember that a snack should be small — just a little something to get you to your next meal because when your snacks get too big, you run the risk of consuming too many calories. Some people choose baby food to eat as snacks and to control portion size. You don't need to go that far, but choosing small portions helps prevent over-eating. Try these options:

  • Spread peanut butter on six whole grain crackers and serve with one ounce of cheese (about the size of a pair of dice).
  • Cut an apple into bite-size chunks and add them to one-half cup low-fat cottage cheese. Sprinkle one tablespoon chopped walnuts or pecans (and a little honey if you like sweetness).
  • Slice a whole grain pita into six wedges and serve with hummus and a handful of fresh berries on the side.
  • Make fruit and cheese plates. Slice one apple and one pear, and serve with fresh grapes, whole grain crackers and a few thin slices of your favorite cheese.
  • Combine one cup plain low-fat yogurt with one-half cup blueberries or strawberry slices, and one-quarter cup chopped walnuts or almonds. Add just enough honey to suit your taste.
  • Spread almond butter on a piece of whole wheat toast and add a spoonful of 100-percent fruit spread. Serve with a glass of non-fat milk.
  • Serve olives and marinated red peppers with a piece of warm whole grain bread.
  • Bake your own tortilla chips and serve them with a chunky mango-black bean salsa.
  • Make a bowl of hot steel cut oatmeal and serve with a sliced banana, one-half cup berries and a splash of non-fat milk or almond milk. Add a drizzle of honey and a few sliced almonds.
  • Have a small salad with spinach leaves, broccoli florets, tomato slices and top with one-quarter cup shredded cheese and one tablespoon of your favorite dressing.
  • Use a high-speed blender (like the Nutri-Ninja or NutriBullet) to create smoothies, juices, and soups with fresh fruits and vegetables.

But what if you really want a "fun" snack? If you want to splurge on a candy bar, potato chips or a cookie, remember that it's fine to do that once in awhile (even once a day if you keep within your calorie budget), but keep your portions extra small — just one cookie, one small candy bar, or a single serving of chips.

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Article Sources

  • Gropper SS, Smith JL, Groff JL. "Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism." Sixth Edition. Belmont, CA. Wadsworth Publishing Company, 2013. 
  • Smolin LA, Grosvenor, MB. "Nutrition: Science and Applications." Third Edition. Wiley Publishing Company, 2013. 
  • United States Department of Agriculture and United States Department of Health and Human Services. "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020." http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines.